We investigate the dispersion relations of nonlinear periodic wave trains in excitable systems which describe the dependence of the propagation velocity on the wavelength. Pulse interaction by oscillating pulse tails within a wave train leads to bistable wavelength bands, in which two stable and one unstable wave train coexist for the same wavelength. The essential spectra of the unstable wave trains exhibit a circle of eigenvalues with positive real parts which is detached from the imaginary axis. We describe the destruction of the bistable dispersion curve and the formation of isolas of wave trains in a sequence of transcritical bifurcations unfolding into pairs of saddle-node bifurcations. It turns out that additional dispersion curves of unstable wave trains play an important role in the destruction of the bistable dispersion curve.